Back on track
AFL identity Sam Newman swapped his fight against cancer for a new battle – struggling against the elements as he trekked the Kokoda Trail, writes Chanel Parratt
IT WAS only six years ago that AFL Footy Show host Sam Newman was in hospital undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.
In October, Newman and his co-host Garry Lyon took on a new challenge – the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea.
Completely out of his comfort zone battling hills and humidity, Newman found plenty to laugh about and a travel experience unlike any he had experienced.
Tell me about your trip to PNG last October?
SN: My good mate Garry Lyon got in my ear about mid last year about trekking Kokoda and what a challenge it would be. At first I wasn’t keen but then when I actually got on the track, well, I still wasn’t keen (laughs). It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but the entire experience blew me away. The incredible war history along the trail, the genuine connection we have to the “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels” as Aussies and pushing the physical and mental barriers every day – an indescribable experience.
What made Kokoda special for you?
SN: I just didn’t expect to be so affected by the history of our Diggers. When you’re walking in their footsteps and you realise how young they were and how unprepared. The hell they went through, it really moved me. I think, also, doing the Kokoda Trail with one of my best mates made it special as well.
What were you looking forward to most when you got home?
SN: Being dry and cool. It’s so muggy that you’re never completely dry the whole trip.
What was the most challenging part of the trek?
SN: The hills. No, the humidity. A combination of the hills and the humidity (laughs). Unrelenting. Day in and day out you feel like you can’t go on but then you think about what our young soldiers went through, enemies around every corner while handling the same environmental challenges we went through and it helps you shut up and keep going.
Were there some good laughs along the way too?
SN: We found humour on many occasions even though we found it extremely tough. I don’t know if it was the exhaustion and heat but Garry and I laughed the entire trip. There was a particularly funny moment when Garry had hurt his foot and a number of the Papua New Guinean porters came out of the jungle with a handmade stretcher to load him on and carry him part of the way (laughs). It’s an ongoing joke from the Footy Show.
So a bit different from your first trip overseas?
SN: Yes. My first overseas trip was to Fiji on a P&O cruise and the Himalayas on a footy trip. It was basically a giant drinking fest from the time we left shore to disembarkation.
Do you collect souvenirs?
SN: I have a 500 million dollar banknote from Africa, which I’m told will buy me a loaf of bread. That is inflation at its best.
Anything you can’t travel without?
SN: Compression socks.